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Thinking maps, reflective questioning, collaborative learning…

TSI is collaborating with licensee Thinking Schools Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to help them develop their own expertise in providing support to their students.  This is a major project and it is anticipated that up to 300 schools will be involved in the future.

Cheffie Primary School is one of the ten model Thinking Schools in the Addis Ababa Education Bureau which is the government school system for Addis Ababa of 300+ schools. The Cheffie leadership team of 8 teachers and school leaders initially received training in June 2014.   Since then, they have been receiving school site visits by lead Thinking Schools Ethiopia trainers Atsede Tsehayou and Dagim Melese. The vice principal of the school, Getinet Gebremichael, has been coordinating the whole staff implementation of Thinking Maps and other aspects of the Thinking Schools Ethiopia model. The video below provide a glimpse of the whole school change currently happening at Cheffie.

Cheffie Primary Addis Ababa Ethiopia 24 April 2015 with visits to several classrooms and an interview with Vice Principal Getinet



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The Vision of Thinking Schools Ethiopia – in more detail

The vision of Thinking Schools Ethiopia is for all Ethiopian children to have an opportunity for access to high quality education led by trained and certified Ethiopian educators that becomes a bi-directional model of education nationally and internationally.

The Thinking Schools Ethiopia Government Schools Proposal for schools in Addis Ababa is a collaboration between Thinking Schools Ethiopia (part of Eminence in Ethiopia) and Thinking Schools International. This proposal builds upon the initial eighteen-­month student-­centered pilot project from 2009-­2011 in Ethiopia, a quality education approach with extensive research supporting Thinking Schools methods and implementation.

The Mission

The process of Thinking Schools Ethiopia engages the vision of whole school change, not simply improving questioning, collaborative learning,  focusing on certain thinking skills, or implementing a single program. It is not just about students, or teachers, or senior management: it is about engaging in the transformation of an interdependent community. Everyone becomes a learner, teacher, and leader through this process of focusing on the co-­development of thinking, young and old. The process is learner/student-­centered throughout each school, between schools throughout each Wereda and between schools throughout Ethiopia. This includes pre-­k, elementary, secondary and university teacher training.


The goals of the Thinking Schools Ethiopia collaboration with Ethiopian schools including government, local community, private and religious schools includes:

  • a quality thinking approach for all students that is built on research based thinking skills that reflects Ethiopian culture

  • high quality on-going teacher training of whole-school thinking methods for all educators led by trained and certificated Ethiopian facilitators

  • Ethiopian master facilitators are trained and certified to facilitate the Thinking Schools Ethiopia approach for sustainability

  • schools working collaboratively learning and implementing thinking skills within the whole school, the local Wereda community and between Kililoch communities regionally

  • use of information and communication technologies to develop and support thinking collaborations within the local communities, regionally, nationally throughout Ethiopia and internationally

  • collaborating with the university teacher colleges for training of new teachers in thinking skills and whole-school development of thinking methods

  • building a body of research and documentation within Ethiopia by Ethiopian educators on the implementation and success of the Thinking Schools Ethiopia approach.

The superintendent of schools and vice mayor of Addis, Mr. Dilamo Ottore has supported Thinking Schools development for many years. In his remarks to Addis Ababa educational bureau leaders, Ato Dilamo brings forward a vision of transforming schools using the Thinking Schools approach.

Thinking Schools Ethiopia website and blog.

Transformative Design

Thinking Schools Ethiopia is focused on facilitating expertise within schools, school systems, and across Addis Ababa and Ethiopia building a sustainable transformative design. Thinking Schools transforms the impact of education through the collaborative development of a wide range of thinking processes of all members of learning organizations.


It is important, then, that the leadership/drive team develop a plan that is not reactive, but that is adaptive and transformative so that as a school you remain generative and open minded. The essence of building a transformative design is to create a vision, a long term plan, and also design high quality ways of communicating across the whole school, and the community the school serves within the Wereda and throughout the country.

Bidirectional Development

Thinking Schools Ethiopia and Thinking Schools International collaborate globally through bidirectional development with schools internationally. International development conventionally involves 1st world countries extending various forms of support to 3rd world countries in a unilateral relationship. Aid flows in one direction only. Resources and capacity in development are understood within existing structures as being only in the hands of industrialized nations. Human capacity for innovation and other human resources are overlooked or devalued. Bidirectional development shifts this assumption to one where all participants recognize their own capacity for aiding the others. Expertise is surfaced, shared and translated to other contexts for each partner to use as they determine is appropriate. Examples might be environments, sustainability and leadership.


Creating Thinking Schools to improve how thinking happens within a school building for every student, teacher and leader. Thinking Schools Ethiopia will become a model in Ethiopia, and a framework for other countries to learn from and collaborate with.  A major outcome is changing how we think about schools so we begin to see that designing Thinking Schools is within reach, and Ethiopia is a change agent for education reform.

  • Impact Ethiopia with its unique place historically as a non-colonized African nation, changing views with increased investment on education, and current growing economy, is poised to be a model of educational change in a large country.

  • Far Reaching In our growing global economy, Ethiopia can connect and excel in the world as a collaborative model within Ethiopia and beyond its borders. Ethiopian teachers can use model technologies that support collaborations with Thinking Schools including initiatives in Brazil, UK, South Africa, India, USA, Norway and other countries.

  • Sustainable The trainers and research will grow from educators in the Ethiopian classrooms with Ethiopian teachers the bedrock of training their peers. The Thinking Schools model will ultimately embrace how humans think cognitively within an Ethiopian cultural context led by teachers and leaders in Ethiopia.

  • Assessment There will be four key areas of assessment including: ethnographic observation; interviews with students, teachers, and leaders; evaluation of student work; and test scores. The four areas of assessment are monitored quarterly to reflect short term needs, and yearly to assess trends and impact. Several large-scale student evaluation studies are currently in progress in Ethiopia contributing to a body of baseline data.

Dr. Awol Endris, a UNESCO director sharing his thoughts on the effectiveness of Thinking Schools training in Addis Ababa. Recently UNESCO endorsed the quality of the Thinking Schools approach.

Read and see more on the Thinking Schools Ethiopia website and blog

Ethiopia – Historical Context

Ethiopia has been an independent nation since ancient times, being one of the oldest countries in the world, while most African nations, in their modern form, are less than a century old. A monarchy for most of its history, the Ethiopian dynasty traces its roots to the 10th century BC. Besides being an ancient country, Ethiopia is one of the oldest sites of human existence known to scientists today. Having yielded some of humanity’s oldest traces, it might be the place from where Homo sapiens first set out for the Middle East and points beyond. Ethiopia is the second-most populous nation in Africa (and thirteenth largest in the world) with over 90 million people and the tenth-largest by area. The capital is Addis Ababa. Ethiopia is bordered by Eritrea to the north, South Sudan to the west, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, and Kenya to the south.

Ethiopia is one of a few African countries to have its own alphabet, in addition to its own time system and unique calendar, seven to eight years behind the Gregorian Calendar. It has the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa. When Africa was divided up by European powers at the Berlin Conference, Ethiopia was one of only two countries that retained its independence. It was one of only four African members of the League of Nations. After a brief period of Italian occupation, Ethiopia became a charter member of the United Nations. When other African nations received their independence following World War II, many of them adopted the colors of Ethiopia’s flag. The green recalls the land and hope for the future, yellow stands for peace and love, and red is symbolic of strength. Addis Ababa became the location of several international organizations focused on Africa. Ethiopia is one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), G-77 and the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Today, Addis Ababa is still the headquarters of the African Union, the Nile Basin Commission and UNECA.

Education in Ethiopia has been dominated by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church for many centuries until secular education was adopted in the early 1900s. Prior to 1974, Ethiopia had an estimated illiteracy rate well above 90% and compared poorly with the rest of Africa in the provision of schools and universities. After the 1974 revolution, emphasis was placed on increasing literacy in rural areas. Practical subjects were stressed, as was the teaching of socialism. Education received roughly 13% of the national budget in 1992. By 1995 the rate of illiteracy had dropped substantially to 64.5%. Projected adult illiteracy rates for the year 2000 stood even lower at 61.3% (males, 56.1%; females, 66.6%). As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.3% of GDP. The current system follows very similar school expansion schemes to the rural areas as the previous 1980s system with an addition of deeper renationalization providing rural education in their own languages starting at the elementary level. The sequence of general education in Ethiopia is six years of primary school, four years of lower secondary school and two years of higher secondary school, yet Ethiopia has the seventh lowest literacy rate in the world in global country rankings.

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